Film Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

Release Date: November 10th, 1990
Directed by: Mick Garris
Written by: Joseph Stefano
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Graeme Revell, Bernard Herrmann (original themes)
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey, C. C. H. Pounder, Warren Frost, John Landis, Kurt Paul, Sharen Camille

Smart Money Productions, Universal Pictures, NBC, Showtime, 96 Minutes

Review:

“All that faith and no potatoes.” – Norman Bates

For being a made-for-TV movie and the third sequel in a series, Psycho IV isn’t half bad. Hell, I even like it a bit more than the third film, even if it is missing Jeff Fahey, who killed it in that picture.

The cast in this one is really well-rounded though between the returning Anthony Perkins, as well as Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey and C. C. H. Pounder. Honestly, this is a really well acted picture that saw its main players give it their all with really solid and compelling results.

The picture starts with Norman Bates being cured but we’ve seen that in the two previous pictures until events pushed him over the edge and back towards his serial killing slasher self.

What’s different and unique about this picture is it involves Norman calling a radio show discussing boys who have murdered their mothers. He uses the name “Ed” while on the air but he talks through his past, primarily his early years, in an effort to fight off his killer tendencies from returning.

With that, this film serves as both a sequel and a prequel. It takes place after Psycho III but it spends a great deal of time flashing back to his life before the events of the original Psycho. It delves into his bizarre relationship with his mother and how it shaped him into the man he became.

Henry Thomas, most famous for playing Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, shows that he was a good actor and he creates a young Norman that is sympathetic yet disturbed.

However, his performance is enhanced by the talent of Olivia Hussey, who plays his mother Norma Bates. The film examines the sexual tension between mother and son and it’s really the plot of this movie that gave birth to the concept that became the Bates Motel television series. And honestly, I prefer this version of a Psycho prequel.

Adult Norman, still played by Perkins, who really committed his life to this role and who always delivers an A-plus performance, shared most of his scenes with the always good C. C. H. Pounder. While the scenes they share are over the phone, as both act out their scenes in different rooms separate from each other, the two had perfect chemistry and their discussions are emotional and believable.

But giving credit where credit is due, a lot of this also probably has to do with the quality of the editing and the overall film direction. These two actors were on completely different sets, probably filming on completely different days but their combined efforts worked and it carries the picture at its most important parts.

What’s fantastic to me, is that I never expected much from Psycho sequels. The first one is perfection and anything else, I thought, would diminish it. But I was wrong. While none of the sequels are as good as the original Hitchcock film, each is still good in their own way and every chapter feels like it enhances the larger story that is Norman Bates’ complete life.

I hope that Anthony Perkins was pleased with the end result of all these films.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.

Film Review: It (1990)

Release Date: November 18th & 20th, 1990
Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen, Tommy Lee Wallace
Based on: It by Stephen King
Music by: Richard Bellis
Cast: Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Annette O’Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Tim Curry, Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, Emily Perkins, Olivia Hussey

Lorimar Productions, DawnField Entertainment, The Konigsberg & Sanitsky Company, Greeb & Epstein Productions, Warner Bros., ABC, 192 Minutes (original), 187 Minutes (DVD version)

Review:

“Kiss me, fat boy!” – Pennywise

When the announcement that a new It film was being made, fans on social media were all like, “What the hell? You can’t remake a classic!” Really?! A classic? Do people actually think that the original It was a good movie (or television miniseries, actually)? Do they really remember it? Or are they seeing it through nostalgic glasses, as they haven’t watched it since 1990 and just recall being terrified by Tim Curry as Pennywise the evil clown?

It really sucks. No, it really does. Then again, I have never been a huge Stephen King fan. I do enjoy the film adaptations of some of his work though but this one is a boring shitty mess littered with some atrocious special effects, even for 1990 TV miniseries standards.

There are only two cool things about this film.

The first is the cast. Most of the characters are made up of television actors that I like: John Ritter, Annette O’Tooler, Tim Reid, Harry Anderson, etc. The second is that Tim Curry is scary and sinister as Pennywise. However, Pennywise is sparsely used. He is such a good monster though, that you kind of beg for him to appear when he’s not on the screen but that’s really just because the rest of the movie is a chore to sit through.

The big monster at the end is just some stop motion animated giant crab spider thing with a glowing stomach. The effects used to create the monster are horrendous. And the heroes kill this massive armored beast by simply pushing it on its side and ripping out its intestines or something. If they would have just done that simple task as kids, I wouldn’t have had to waste so much time on this seventeen hour movie.

People that think that this long, drawn out, boring piece of shit is a good film are the type of people that buy Coldplay records and NCIS on DVD, even though it is streaming for free everywhere. It is an awful, dull and terrible miniseries. Its fans are awful, dull and terrible people.

Does It deserve to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Oh, you bet your dumpy ass it does! So what we have here is a “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 2.5/10

Film Review: Quest of the Delta Knights (1993)

Release Date: October 1993
Directed by: James Dodson
Written by: Redge Mahaffey
Music by: Carl Schurtz
Cast: David Warner, Corbin Allred, David Kriegel, Olivia Hussey, Richard Kind

Ramsway Ltd., Metro Pictures Productions, 97 Minutes

quest_deltaReview:

Quest of the Delta Knights is pretty awful. It has a 2.1 rating on IMDb but that may be a little harsh. Sure, it is well below average but it also isn’t complete dog shit. It weirdly has some charm and it is hard to not like David Warner, even in really bad films.

It was a film that was usually in the children’s section in the video store and it seems that it was filmed in a style that feels like a kids movie but it has some subject matter that doesn’t make a lot of sense, mainly a whorehouse and literal piss throwing.

The film also doesn’t seem to really understand the world it represents. There is a weird mix of cultures that just doesn’t make sense to the time, place and context of the story. Also, Leonardo Da Vinci is a dandy made to look like he stole all his brilliant ideas.

The film looks cheap and it has that old soap opera or porn look, where it seems like the camera lens was lathered in Vasoline. The movie looks foggy, out of focus and oily.

The acting is bad, the direction is awful and the story makes about as much sense as a clown headbutting a beehive. Okay, maybe that 2.1 on IMDb isn’t looking so bad now.

I would suggest that no one suffer through Quest of the Delta Knights but if one chooses to, at least watch the version that is riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I totally take back where I said this has some charm. It must have been the wine in my blood stream.

Rating: 2/10

Film Review: Black Christmas (1974)

Also known as: Silent Night Evil Night, Stranger in the House
Release Date: October 11th, 1974 (Canada)
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: A. Roy Moore
Music by: Carl Zitter
Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin

Film Funding Limited of Canada, Ambassador Films, Warner Bros., 98 Minutes

black_christmasReview:

Some people have referred to Black Christmas as the first slasher film. It is hard to say what the first one was, as people have varying opinions on what exactly makes a slasher. If you consider pictures like Halloween and Friday the 13th to be the true slasher formula, then Black Christmas would be their godfather. In fact, the similarities between Black Christmas and Halloween are undeniable. Also, When A Stranger Calls borrows a lot from this picture. Needless to say, Black Christmas was a highly influential film on the horror genre.

The film takes place in a sorority house over the Christmas holiday. The girls keep getting strange and perverse phone calls. As the story progresses, one girl is murdered in the attic. Then the housemother is killed when she discovers the body. The police start investigating the missing girl and suspect the phone calls are related. More girls die, more weird phone calls happen and it all comes to a big crescendo once it is revealed that the killer is making the calls from within the house.

Directed by Bob Clark, who would go on to make the beloved A Christmas Story and Porky’s, this movie was the best of his career. Granted, Clark also gave us those atrocious Baby Geniuses films. But Black Christmas is an exceptional piece of work.

There were a lot of really artistic shots and the overall cinematography was impressive. The film had the warmth and welcoming feel of Christmas, all while generating a real sense of terror. The famous shot of the killer’s eye at the end is still one of the best moments in horror history. Clark really knew what he was doing with this film and he executed it brilliantly. Not only does Black Christmas still stand up today, over forty years later, but it is better than any modern horror picture in recent memory.

It is also worth mentioning that the performances by Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder were outstanding. It is easy to see why Kidder went on to have a pretty good career through the 70s and 80s. Keir Dullea, Hussey’s possibly psychotic love interest, gives one of his most memorable performances since he was Dr. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then you have John Saxon, who came across as a much kinder and less drunk version of his detective character from the first and third A Nightmare On Elm Street movies. Also, you get to see a young Andrea Martin before she went on to become one of the stars in the great sketch comedy series SCTV.

Slasher pictures aren’t really known for being great pieces of filmmaking. However, Black Christmas really breaks that mold and it set a standard that was hard for others to measure up to.

Rating: 9.5/10